My Favourite Game
The Absolute Radio host on homemade joysticks, the pleasure of broken games, and Monkey Island tattoos
Pete Donaldson talks homemade hardware and broken games
Pete Donaldson is a voiceover artist, roving reporter and presenter who currently hosts several shows on Absolute Radio, and is one quarter of The Football Ramble podcast team. He’s played a few small roles in games, helped to judge the BAFTA Video Game Awards, and has two LucasArts-inspired tattoos: one of Ghost Pirate LeChuck, and a more recent rendition of Manny Calavera. Given your tattoos, is it safe to assume you’re a big adventure game fan? Yeah, huge. Huge. I was really into all the Sierra series and LucasArts ones. Police Quest was a really big favourite of mine on the Sierra side – this really dull procedural police adventure. There’s no reason why an eight-year-old should know the correct flare procedure when dealing with a broken-down car on the motorway or how to read people their Miranda rights, but I just liked the authenticity of it. Obviously, my favourite from that genre was definitely Monkey Island. I remember coveting that game for such a long time. I’d walk past the videogames in WHSmith and it was £37, so I could never afford it. But I saved up my paper-round money and finally picked up that one solitary box in the shop and took it home, and, man, what a game that was, even on 11 floppy disks, constantly swapping. That was back when I was on the Amiga. You voiced a character in an unofficial fan-made Zak McKracken sequel, too. Yeah, there was a dev team from Germany who put together a reimagined fan episode of Zak McKracken And The Alien Mindbenders. It was kind of quirky and, for want of a better word, eastern European in its execution. The jokes didn’t really connect, but it was a long time ago. It’s pretty goofy and my delivery is awful. I’d hate for anyone to have ever heard it! I hadn’t started doing voiceovers at that point, but I just wanted to be in a videogame. I’ve auditioned for a couple, the cancelled Fable game being one of the notable ones, but it doesn’t look like that job exists any more! Were adventure games your route into games, or were you playing before? It was even earlier. My dad was an electrical engineer and we had an Amstrad CPC6128, and he tore out the screen from an old fruit machine and that was my first colour monitor! And he pulled out the innards of this machine and made me my own bespoke micro-switched joystick, because back then there weren’t really that many joystick standards. My earliest memories are games like Jet Set Willy and Turbo Esprit, and those crappy collections where you’d get 100 games for £9.99 from Woolworths and they’d be in the bargain bin, and they’d be horrible. But I have a soft spot for games that overstretch themselves a little, games that are fundamentally broken.
“My dad pulled out the innards of this machine and made me my own bespoke microswitched joystick”
Such as? One of my favourites was a game called Boiling Point: Road To Hell. I don’t know if anyone remembers it, but it was published by Atari. It was a massive open-world firstperson shooter, and you could drive any vehicle; it had degrading weapons, and it just hadn’t really been done before. But it was unspeakably bad. The wrong voices would come out of certain characters, the collision detection was dreadful, and the first patch that came out – that everyone was hoping would be this wide-ranging, plate-spinning patch job for the multiple problems that that game had – just made the Moon smaller and had no bearing on the game at all. Ah, man, I just love games like that. The Lost tie-in, too – it was dreadful. I like games that are just bad and make a right dog’s dinner of it! Do you have a favourite game that isn’t fundamentally broken? I’m probably gonna have to go for Shenmue on the Dreamcast. Your favourite games are definitely chosen around a point in your life when you’ve got a little bit more time to play them, and you could sink 150 hours into that game. You could collect toys and stuff and wander around this beautifully realised – for the Dreamcast – rendition of Japan. It gave me an intense interest to visit, and I did it finally four years ago when I had enough money to go. I’ve been going on average twice a year since. I love that place, and I think I can definitely blame Shenmue for that. Again, it’s a janky game and not really that much fun to play when you think about it, but games have to be like that to get my attention.